Anthony Masi is your average Gen-X fright fan who was there in the theaters of the eighties when profit-turning horror franchises featuring Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Pinhead and of course, Jason Voorhees were raking in duckets by the month, much less the entire decade collectively.
What is not average about Masi is the access he’s had to the players and creators of these standout vehicles as producer of expository documentaries such as Halloween: The Shape of Terror, Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, The 12 Days of Black Christmas and now, in the nick of time for the box-office-crushing reboot of the beloved Friday the 13th series, His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th.
For His Name Was Jason, Masi and his production crew were set upon a trimmed shooting schedule in which approximately 90 interviewees related to the famous slasher films (or those simply appearing on-camera to testify their love of Sir Hack ‘n Slash Voorhees) were processed with such expedience local motor vehicle administrations ought to crash study the method.
Everyone from Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Tom Savini, John Furey, Amy Steel, Larry Zerner, the More twins, and of course, the entire lot of actors throwing on either the duffel or the renowned hockey mask (including current Jason, Derek Mears) make an appearance in this comprehensive documentary. For Masi, the gathering went beyond a class reunion where the bloody valedictorian snuffed the majority of his graduating class on film. As you’ll read, His Name Was Jason was an event for Masi the producer as well as Masi the fan…
With your Halloween documentaries, the upcoming Psycho project you’re working on and of course your current project His Name Was Jason, obviously a love of the genre has prompted you to do such extensive work on these shows. How did you grow up with horror films; did you have parents who were cool with it or were there any limits placed upon you?
It was great. Basically my parents were divorced when I was very young and I had a really great relationship with both of my parents. My mom raised me and she never had any limits on me! (laughs) I was able to watch anything in horror and I loved her for it. She’s actually the one who turned me on to horror movies. She let me watch Halloween one night when I was a kid in elementary school and like a lot of faithful fans of the genre, I was transfixed. The next day in school I couldn’t stop talking about Michael Myers, and I remember kids telling me, ‘Shut up, already!’ I loved it so much. Then I begged my mom to take me to every horror movie after that and I have these really great memories of me and my twin brother and my mom going to see horror movies together, like screaming throughout Visiting Hours. God, I remember this old movie with Donald Pleasance and Jack Palance, Alone in the Dark, it’s such a great movie! Donald Pleasance plays another crazy doctor and it was totally riding on the heels of Halloween, which is probably why he was cast, but he’s excellent in it! Thanks to my parents and thanks to your parents, we’re both loving the genre and my love of horror is why I’m doing these documentaries today.
Let me give you compliments on His Name Was Jason which I spent a marathon viewing session in one sitting! Like yourself, I grew up on the Friday the 13th films through my teenage years. I was 14 and getting our whole neighborhood of kids into those movies back then. A lot of great memories are coming out of this documentary, bro…
Thank you, it was really fun to make. I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t know how I was going to react or even think about how I would react. We had a very limited amount of time to put this project together, so we had to do massive amounts of interviews in a short timeframe. We booked a ten day interview session at the Sound Stage in Burbank and during that time, we had about eight to ten interviewees a day. They came in one right after the other, every hour on the hour! It was the weirdest thing seeing all of these actors and crew members from all of the films that I’ve loved for so many years, just coming in one right after the other and you’re able to talk to them and then see them unite and talk to each other! It was almost like a 3-D version of those films! That, to me, was the most surreal experience and it was just amazing.
I’m sure! I’ve interviewed Betsy Palmer in the past and she is the nicest person on the planet. Putting together the whole lineage of this film series, though, how iconic was Betsy’s presence for your project?
Yeah, it was definitely a challenge because you have so much material to cover in 90 minutes and if it were up to us, we’d do a five hour documentary, but you’ve got to the draw the line at some point; time and budget constraints told us we couldn’t really do more than 90 minutes. We do call it “the ultimate retrospective,” so if you’re interviewing 90 people—that’s really our count, just at 90, I believe—the fun of it was to just see everybody after all these years and see their photos as they’re talking. For instance, Bonnie Hellman when she squeezes the banana; she also came in with some awesome photos from that about how the effect was done. That’s the fun of the documentary, just sort of reminiscing and going back through time and seeing what these people look like and them talking about their time on the set. I think we definitely accomplished what we set out to do.
I have to note how affected I was by Adrienne King’s testimony about her stalker…
Wasn’t that crazy?
Oh, my Lord, man. You can look at her dark artwork in your bonus features and really get a clue of what happened to her. A lot of us fans have always wondered what happened to Adrienne after the Friday films.
Yeah, you hear about it and you almost wonder how much of the stalker thing is real because you hear about these urban legends. Then Adrienne shows up and she didn’t tell us she was bringing her paintings. I mean, she lives out of state and traveled with these paintings and on the bonus features she really goes into what happened. I had a lot of people tell me they were crying because you could see how much it really affected her. It’s an inescapable kind of thing when you’re in the business; it’s not necessarily restricted to horror movies, but when you’re thrust in front of people like that, you always get a couple people who want to know you a little more and in their brains they think they do. It’s just sort of a consequence of this business and I think it really affected her. It’s a pretty crazy story.
Yeah, out of all the Friday films, Adrienne has to be considered the ultimate girl-next-door for our generation, so I think everyone learning about this story is taking it personal!
I was really fascinated with you guys uncovering the controversy of the second film with the downplaying of Steve Daskawisz’s involvement in the movie, who, accordingly to his testimony, played a large bulk of Jason’s screen time. He’s listed as the “Jason Stunt Double” in the film’s credits while Warrington Gillette gets most of the credit, of course. Was there any backlash from them, the fans or anyone coming to learn of this story?
It’s funny, we had a lot of people asking us if we were going to include that and we didn’t want to do any mudslinging in the feature documentary, only because that really wasn’t the purpose. The purpose of the documentary was to look back upon the series fondly! (laughs) That story is really kind of irrelevant to the overall success of the series. In any movie—you name it—there’s always some political thing going on and there’s always somebody who feels burned and all of that. We figured we’d leave all of that stuff out of the documentary, but we did realize we’re talking to fans here. A guy like me, if I hadn’t made this documentary, I would’ve bought it and I would’ve wanted to see that, so we at least gave the Jasons a chance to talk in the bonus features. The last thing we wanted to do was put them next to each another and have them duke it out!
(laughs) Which leads us to Kane Hodder. I think his impressions about being thrown over when Freddy vs. Jason and now the Friday redo were handled pretty gracefully. Yeah, he was in the more oddball sequels, but I think most people would agree Kane Hodder is Jason, bar none of the others. Having had all of these Jason actors from Ari Lehman to the new man behind the mask Derek Mears in front of your camera, who is Jason for you?
I’ve said it before: Kane, definitely. He’s definitely my favorite Jason, and it’s funny because Part VII is really the movie that I sort of look at as the standard. It’s just the way he looks and I think it was my age when I saw that movie; it made a big impression on me. I think the moment when he stands out of the lake and you see his spine all eaten away, that to me was Jason. However, I also love Part IV, which wasn’t with Kane Hodder. Ted White is a strong Jason to me as well, but when I think of Jason and I think of Friday the 13th the film series, I think of Kane. He’s definitely the guy. He brought something to the character and everybody says this; he’s just a little different somehow in the way he moves that makes you remember him. There’s a big difference from C.J. Graham’s version in Part VI and Kane’s in Part VII, not that C.J. was bad; he was actually very good, but Kane’s was a very different portrayal of Jason that gives him a personality, which I think is difficult especially when you’ve got a mask and heavy clothes. Adding this personality to a faceless character I think Kane can do very well.
You had a parade of Friday girls coming through on His Name Was Jason and for me, the ultimate Friday the 13th babes are both from Part 2: Amy Steel and Kirsten Baker. Who would you pick out of the entire series?
Amy Steel, actually. She affected me so much as a kid with her performance; she’s really an actress, she’s one of the good ones. She had something about her that relates to you; again, I was kid. I remember seeing her in a shampoo commercial (laughs) a year or two after the movie and I remember jumping off the couch and yelling ‘That’s the girl from Friday 2!” I couldn’t believe it and I brought that up with her and she said ‘Oh yeah, I remember doing that commercial,’ you know? Definitely for me it’s Amy Steel, and she has a huge following! A lot of people just love her!
Another thing I loved about the bonus features on this program is you guys visiting the film sites for Part 3 and Part IV. I’m a real nerd for film locations, having been to the campsite of the original Friday, so I really love what you did by presenting these sites to the fans.
Our bonus features editor, his name is Andrew Cash, he’s a great guy, a lot of fun to work with…he told me that he’d found that house from Part IV saying ‘I think I’ve been there,’ so we got in the car one day and we drove to where it was and it’s in a place where there’s all these houses built deep in the woods. You really have to know where you’re going to find anything and I remember we just kept driving up and down the streets, all over the place. He was going completely by memory and I remember we drove by the driveway and he was like, ‘That’s it!’ We stopped and we turned around and drove all the way down and up to the property. The owner was just sitting on his porch (laughs), he should’ve been on a Hallmark card. He’s just sitting there on the porch! We were like ‘Heyyyyy, how’re you doing? We’re doing this documentary, would you let us come on over?’ He said sure and we went in the house and as you can see on the DVD, it’s exactly the same!
So we said ‘We’re going to come back with the director (of Part IV, Joe Zito) and someone else, and they were really awesome about it. I wish we had done more of that. We really wanted to; we wanted to go see Camp No-Be-Bos-Co in New Jersey. I used to live in New Jersey, but again there was five hours of content that we had to pick for other things. As I said, we could’ve done a five-hour documentary and 20 hours of bonus features, but we had to be realistic and we really had a small amount of time to put this thing together. Anchor Bay wanted to have it released by the time the new movie came out, which was a brilliant move, so there was just no moving the deadline. That wreaked havoc on all of our sleep habits (laughs) and we were all sleep-deprived, but it was worth it, definitely.
What’s really great about visiting these sites is you realize what the power of a movie can do by taking something and creating a world, and I think that is what I found amazing, even when you walk into the Friday IV house and it looks exactly the same. I mean, when you look up on the wall, if you watch that bonus feature, there’s a copper colander that’s hanging on the wall; it’s exactly in the same spot as it is in the movie! Plus, it’s still shiny! You wonder why they didn’t take that down! (laughs) I’m glad they left it there. You look at it and you’re like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that!’ The same thing happened to me when I did this Halloween convention in 2003. I remember we went into one of the houses from Halloween II, Mrs. Elrod’s house, and she had that cutting board and you know, the kitchen there looks exactly the same! You feel like you’re standing in a movie and that’s what I love about it; you’re standing right there looking around and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is better than any video game I could play!’ (laughs) But then you have Halloween and one of the houses on the street where they’re babysitting, they’ve added a whole section to it and it doesn’t look like the house anymore
You mentioned to me meeting Bob Clark, director of two of your favorite films A Christmas Story and Black Christmas. You want to talk about your yin and yan holiday films!
I know! (laughs) They’re polar opposites, but they’re genius, each of them, such genius the more you watch them. I was really sad when Bob Clark passed away, but at least he created these movies that will live on and on and on…
Since we’re going to be talking about the Friday remake, I have to address all of these insane remakes Hollywood’s spinning out in baker’s dozens. Black Christmas is one of them…
I don’t care if this is being recorded (laughs), that movie sucks! I couldn’t believe they ruined such a brilliant movie and really turned into something laughable. I was stunned by how bad it was.
Hell, I was pissed off by the remake of The Omen. It was replicated scene-by-scene, word-by-word, just different faces. What a waste of time that was.
Yeah, you wonder why you’re sitting there eating popcorn on a Friday night going, ‘I’ve seen this before, it’s just Bizarro Omen!’ It was a complete opposite of The Omen! (laughs) It looks familiar, but it’s really the opposite! It was totally pointless, like the remake of Psycho, and we’re dealing with that right now in our Psycho documentary. There was some talk about taking it out and I was like, ‘You’ve gotta talk about it!’ It’s part of the lore of this series. It’s a tip of the hat and it comes full circle when it’s remade like that. It’s a competent film, but you wonder why it was made.
I thought Vince Vaughn did an admirable job, but stepping into the shoes of Tony Perkins? Forget it. I was fine with Vaughn’s performance, but what I wasn’t fine with was the liberal heisting of Bernard Hermann’s music, not to mention reproducing the film step-by-step, scene-by-scene. Pointless.
That’s kind of what I’m going through with all of these remakes. On the business side, I understand; it’s all about money, so if the studio’s going to make a ton of money, that’s why it’s going to be made. That’s a shame, in my opinion.
I’ll take Psycho 3 over the remake!
I love Psycho 3! I’ve got to tell you, Parts 2 and 3, I’ve been watching them a lot lately and I just love those movies. Even Part 4 had some really strong moments in it. Henry Thomas did such a great job as the young Norman Bates. It’s a very strong series with a really memorable character. Tony Perkins will go down in the history books as the creepiest villain, even creepier than Hannibal Lecter. There’s just something about the way Tony portrays that character. God, the ending to Psycho 2 is pure genius!
I agree with that! I loved it. Now, you guys get to show off a good number of Jason’s greatest kills in this documentary. Essentially the Friday the 13th series revolutionized murder as entertainment (laughs), and you brought up Part VII earlier, which has my three favorite kill scenes in it: death by party horn, death by weed eater and of course, Kane’s favorite, the infamous sleeping bag kill. How about some of your favorite kills in the series?
You know, there was one that we didn’t include in the DVD and the only reason is because of a licensing issue. We just didn’t have all the money to pay for all of these clips, but I love the folding of the bed in Freddy vs. Jason. It’s just one of the great moments. Jesse Hutch is just lying there and I just love that scene! That’s classic Jason to me. When I think of a Jason movie, that is exactly what I think of, over-the-top, crazy, almost illogical deaths! I mean, no one could do that! If a masked killer is there in your house and he’s going to kill you, the last thing any real killer would want to do is fold that bed in half! It has a sense of humor, it’s so over-the-top, which makes it okay. You applaud and I think with movies nowadays, the kills are so real that you’re almost disgusted and you’re turned off. The Friday movies, the brilliance behind them is you’re turned on somehow, but because of that reason it’s in a realm of being totally unbelievable. Shoving the kazoo thing in that girl’s eye in Part VII, that could absolutely happen, but I think it’s just the crass way he does it and there’s something of a sense of humor behind it. Unfortunately, I think horror movies as of the past five, six, seven years, have kind of lost that. Scream embraced it for awhile, which was great, but then you’ve had Saw and Hostel and personally I’m just not drawn to those movies. They’re way too dark. To me, the kills that make you laugh, like folding the sheriff backwards in Part VI, you know it’s crazy! It’s over-the-top and it doesn’t even look that real, so it’s okay! (laughs) These are audience movies and that’s what makes them great. You want to feel like when the lights come up, you don’t want to slit your wrists! You want to feel jazzed, you want to feel up.
You’re too busy laughing sometimes to take any of it seriously, like the girl getting her faced rammed into the wall in the Winnebago in Part VI…
Yeah! You’re thinking, ‘How did they do that?’ and ‘Who thought of that?’ You’re not thinking, ‘Oh, God, I think I’m going to throw up my popcorn and orange Slurpee right now!’ You’re really having fun and these movies above all are entertainment. That’s why you go to the movies, to be entertained! You don’t go to the movies so you can become depressed or have to go see a therapist afterwards. These newer horror movies really go that far to try and repulse you. I loved My Bloody Valentine in 3-D. I saw it twice in two days. I haven’t had that much fun at a horror movie in probably ten years. I mean, the acting was okay, it was cheesy, and all the things that make a great horror movie for us are really what that movie brought. Todd Farmer wrote the movie and he’s who did Jason X, and he has a scene in the movie…he gets what the horror genre is all about. He gets why horror movie fans go to see horror. It was a critical failure, I’m absolutely certain, but for what it is, it’s a great movie.
Which Friday the 13th film did you have the most fun at being in the theater?
I’d definitely say Part III. I just couldn’t believe my eyes and I was so young. I remember the audience screaming, but also I’d have to say Part IV. You’re asking me about a time in my life when everything was great! I had no judgment when I was a teenager! I thought Part V was even great when Jason’s not even doing the killing in it! I remembered loving even that movie and coming home shouting ‘It wasn’t him! It wasn’t Jason!’ and loving it. Everything was great when I was younger. When those movies came out I would wait like everyone else from when you saw the trailer. I’d be sitting on the couch watching t.v. and see the trailer. It’s not like now where everything’s on the internet and you kind of know everything about the movie before you go there. You’re privy now to conversations between the writer and the studio! Those things were non-existent back then. With the internet, we’re now clued-in, but back then I’d see the trailers for the Halloween movies and the Friday movies and the Nightmare movies and I’d be there opening night and I’d just love every minute of it! There was nothing I think I didn’t like. Now in retrospect I can pick everything apart (laughs), but when you’re young and impressionable, it’s just great! I tend to think I live in a time capsule; those movies from the eighties or the nineties, how those horror movies made me feel, I’ll never get that back, because it’s just a different place in time, and that’s what makes it special.
When His Name Was Jason aired on Starz, it was interesting what the reaction was. People emailed me saying ‘I had no idea how influential these movies were!’ My stepmom, I love her to death, but she just doesn’t get why I love horror movies. She just doesn’t understand why you would go see a movie where people are dying. There’s a lot of people like that and I think after seeing this documentary she might understand me a little more! (laughs) It’s one of those things you either get it or you don’t, and not everyone should get it. That’s what’s great about art; there are different groups of people who are drawn to different things. I don’t really like opera music but other people do!
Let’s touch on the new Friday film. I was there on opening night and I had to laugh at all of the youngbloods standing there in this monster wraparound line to get into the theater. They were complaining, bitching and eventually fighting to the point where the people in the back of the line ran up to the front once the doors were open and it was getting a bit violent. Me, I didn’t care, I was confident about getting a seat. While these kids were fighting, the ushers came up to me and a bunch of folks in the back and said they were opening another theater for the overflow, so we just calmly walked in! You and I can attest that these lines were a part of everyday life as horror fans in the eighties…
They definitely were. I stood in all of those lines and God, those were great times! They really were. Nowadays it’s like everybody needs to have everything now, everyone needs things to be their way. Yeah, I get it, but it’s cool to see that many people showing up for a Friday the 13th movie. These movies are meant to be seen on a big screen and to a big audience because it’s fun when everyone’s yelling and screaming at the same time. It’s like sitting on a rollercoaster with a friend when you’ve got a rollercoaster full of people on there with you, not being there completely by yourself.
Yeah, it was fun and these days I like to gauge the audience reaction. I mean, back in the eighties, I don’t know if you were like me, but I was a real goofball at horror flicks, whatever it would take to cut the audience up. I thought this crowd at the new Friday was just a little too polite or not very active for much of the film. I’d say the lake murders are when people started to come alive, particularly when Jason impales the topless water skier in the head.
You know, I might take that as a sign of they’ve seen it all before, which adds to the sense of innocent times in the eighties. These movies were just unfolding, the whole style of these movies. The great thing about doing the Halloween documentary was doing a documentary on a series that ushered in modern horror. You have Psycho, which is sort of the granddaddy of it all, the killer with the knife with the weird twist of him dressing up like his mom. There had been other movies, but Halloween did something right and it really refined the whole idea of a killer on the loose. There was really no story to that movie; it was just this killer who comes back home to kill and that was it. With all the genius and talent of the writing and Carpenter and everybody, it was like lightning in a bottle.
What Friday the 13th did, it sort of defined what the slasher genre was. Halloween brought it in and Friday the 13th defined it. It said ‘Okay, if these movies are here to stay, they’re going to turn out like this!’ They did that; they turned out seven movies in eight years and what we have come to know collectively as what a slasher film is, is what Friday the 13th sort of claims. It was a different place in time. This remake is the 12th film in the series. Audiences going to see it, they’ve probably seen at least half of the other Friday movies, so they’ve kind of seen it, and I wonder if that might be what makes them a little jaded. It might be something like, ‘Go ahead, show me something I haven’t seen!’ To me, I think it’s a sad thing, because when I was watching them as a kid and I saw some guy have his eyeball pop out of his head, it was genius! I would’ve watched that over Citizen Kane any day because it (Friday Part III) was the best movie I’d ever seen. I think it might just be a sign of the times, so we’re reigniting all of these movies by starting them over and with (Rob Zombie’s) Halloween 2 coming out next, I wonder how effective it’s going to be for people who are just discovering the series. I think it’s a very interesting time we’re living in.
You guys managed to present Derek Mears as a bit of a gentle giant, so much I know the directors were initially worried about his capability of pulling off Jason. I thought he did a very good job, particularly with his mobility. Again, Kane will always be my Jason, but I thought Derek really anted up. What did you think of his performance?
I thought he was an incredible Jason, I really did. I think he managed to inject personality into the character, which, as I’ve said, is kind of hard to do, but he was very ferocious and it was a new side of Jason. Obviously Kane Hodder brought certain anger to the character, but Derek was very ferocious and very mean-spirited. I thought he did a great job. I like how he played with the different looks. There was the sack head and then he takes out the mask, so he was able to do something in that movie the other Jasons weren’t able to do, sort of finding a personality to the character with two different looks. It’s gotta be hard! I mean, you’re an actor and you’re behind a mask, so you try to create a persona, but yeah, he was really mean! (laughs) I liked his portrayal a lot.
I thought the most brilliant part of the film was number one, them holding off the main title until he’s had his first batch of kills, but just the fact Jason literally comes flying offscreen, leaps over Amanda Righetti and then plants the machete into the face of the poor schmuck caught in the bear trap! I don’t think we’ve seen that kind of speed in Jason ever!
That was great! I love that stuff!
What was your favorite kill from the new film?
That one you just described, definitely the machete in the face. That whole beginning was so well-done. Jason in the other movies I don’t think would string someone up over a campfire knowing there’s someone else stuck in a bear trap watching. That’s what I think is different about this Jason. He’s mean-spirited, vengeful—actually the Jasons of the past were also vengeful—but it was almost like he had a different way about it. He was more intelligent because he knew what he was doing in making someone else suffer by seeing their girlfriend in a sleeping bag roasting over a fire! There’s something much darker than Jason with a weed whacker in Part VII where he’s just coming at you and gutting you like a fish! I think the whole beginning was very well-done; I really loved it and I liked them putting the credit in later as well.
If you got to don the hockey mask for five minutes on film, what would you envision yourself doing?
(laughs) First of all, I’m only like 5’7” so I’d be a little mini-Jason! (laughs) I don’t know, I would want to write my own kill. I would love to say I decapitated six people at one time, something crazy like that. I think one of the flaws in the new movie—this is assuming I was in charge of stuff like that—I think I would’ve tried and gone all-out with tons of crazy stuff. Obviously you don’t want to go so over-the-top where you’re being ridiculous. I mean it already is kind of ridiculous! I like the arrow shooting into the guy’s head in the boat, although that’s a one-in-a-billion shot! I don’t think anybody—I don’t care who you are, not even the most seasoned sniper—would be able to make that shot, but that’s why you tune in, right? That’s something I wish they would’ve done more of, things that are so crazy and over-the-top. Yeah, if I put on the mask, I wouldn’t want to just stab someone across the neck; I would want to rip their heads off in a sleeping bag and freeze their body in liquid nitrogen, all at the same time!
Interview: Anthony Masi (His Name is Jason)